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Breast Cancer Stage Four

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Metastatic Breast Cancer related image Photo: Getty Images

During stage IV breast cancer, the disease has most often spread to other parts of the body. These other parts can include one’s lungs, liver, bone and brain.

The survival rate for stage IV is usually lower than it is for early stages of detection. Since for many women stage IV is not survivable, the goal of treatment becomes prolonging life and treating symptoms as they occur.

Stage IV breast cancer is also called metastatic breast cancer, or MBC. It is the most advanced stage of breast cancer and often metastasizes to various tissues including lungs, liver and bone tissues.

Radiation therapy no longer impacts the disease at this stage. Cancer extends past the axillary lymph nodes and into the other parts of the body where it continuously multiplies and develops.

Of all metastatic breast cancer cases in the United States, most are recurrences of the original breast cancer. You may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some new treatments are only available through a clinical trial. Also, taking part can help researchers learn more about what kinds of responses to expect and why.

Other treatments include hormone therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy and radiation therapy. Women whose tumors have positive hormone receptors (ER+) may benefit from hormone therapy.

Hormone therapy works to shrink tumors throughout the body. Since this treatment has less negative side effects than chemotherapy, it may be a better option for some women.

If hormone therapy is not an option, chemotherapy is usually tried next, as a good way to reduce tumors and kill cancer cells. Targeted therapy treatments are used to target cancer cells with certain features.

One approved therapy is trastuzumab (Herceptin). This is used in people with tumor cells that are HER2-positive. Radiation therapy is given for the purpose of relieving pain or other symptoms caused by metastatic disease. It may also be given to reduce the size of a tumor in order to reduce symptoms.

Your treatment options depend on a number of features including the location of the metastases and the size, your age and the general health you are in, certain features of the cells of the tumors, as well as the types of treatment you’ve had previously.

Continued support in the form of support groups, counseling and ongoing conversations with your care provider about possible treatments are crucial to your prolonged health and well being.

Keeping a journal of all your symptoms is a proactive means of recording what may be working or not working to alleviate pain and increase the quality of your life.


Retrieved from the internet October 17, 2011

American Cancer Society
Learn About Breast Cancer
Retrieved from the internet October 17, 2011

Susan G. Komen for the Cure
Facts for Life
Metastatic Breast Cancer
Retrieved from the internet on October 17, 2011

Aimee Boyle is a regular contributor to EmpowHER.

Reviewed October 21, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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